By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
VALLEJO — Noel Hernandez passed for 151 yards and four touchdowns Friday as Piner High dominated the second half and dumped St. Patrick-St. Vincent, 43-29, in the first round of the North Coast Section Division 4 football playoffs.
The Prospectors won their opener in their first playoff appearance since 2003.
“After playing three varsity seasons and not getting anywhere near the playoffs, this is fantastic,” the Prospectors’ quarterback said after a heart-stopping, if mistake-filled, victory. “I only play one sport, so this win is as big as it gets for me personally.
“We never gave up.”
Running back Mark Angier rushed 19 times for 115 yards for the Prospectors in the battle of 5-5 teams. His 44-yard touchdown burst iced the contest with 2 minutes, 48 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Angier’s 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter capped an outburst that tied things 23-23 after the host Bruins pulled to a slim 8-0 lead in the first half.
“We didn’t make any real adjustments in the second half,” Hernandez said, after the Prospectors gained 55 total yards in the first half. “We just made some personnel changes and we were able to take advantage of them in the second half. We didn’t do anything differently. We played hard. There was never a time when I felt like we were out of the game.”
Hernandez completed 10 of 24 passes in the contest, but brought his team back with all 43 points coming in the second half. His 37-yard scoring pass to Isiah Roybal, followed by Hernadez kicking the extra-point, gave the Prospectors a 30-23 lead with 10:10 left in the game. Roybal raced past a defender in man-to-man pass coverage and caught a high-arching throw in stride to run untouched to the end zone.
Anthony Williams followed with a touchdown pass to James Terrell for the Bruins, but the extra-point kick was blocked in the middle of the Piner defensive line to leave the Prospectors on top 30-29.
The game was marred by penalties that played key roles in virtually every scoring drive.
It was a goal-line stand, that went almost unnoticed after the second-half offensive outburst, that wound up vaulting the Prospectors (6-5) into the second round of the playoffs.
After already having stopped the Bruins on four plays inside the Prospectors’ 15-yard line, Piner fell behind 8-0.
St. Patrick later had first down at the Prospectors’ 5. Williams gained 4 yards on the ground. But, Piner stopped the Bruins for no gain on the next the three plays. Peter Barbieri’s tackle, on a charge into the teeth of Piner’s defense, turned the Bruins away.
“That was just a total team effort,” Barbieri said. “We didn’t do anything special. We just stopped them.
“This game was just so important. I haven’t felt this good in a long time.”
St. Patrick fell to 5-6 to end the season after dominating the first half. The Bruins had 214 yards of total offense in the first 24 minutes.
Piner will advance to the Division 4 quarterfinal round next Saturday night with a road game at No. 1 seed San Marin, which was 8-2 in the regular season and had a first-round bye.
San Marin is one of three teams in Division 4 with first-round byes. Also sitting out this weekend are No. 2 seed Fortuna (8-2) and No. 3 seed Healdsburg (6-4), like Piner a member of the Sonoma County League.
Ted Sillanpaa can be reached at Ted.Sillanpaa@pressdemocrat.com